We’re so pretty oh so pretty ahhh.. we’re vaa-cunt. The naughty schoolboy humor of the Sex Pistols resonates even back to the beginnings of rock and roll. But in 1976, many of the established bands were humorless and self-important – nobody got the joke. Then the Sex Pistols came along and delivered a sonic punch to your snotty, bloody nose. This was implied violence – the group played on your imagination. The pleasure of the music is in the levels of its implications – “and our figurehead – HA- is not what she seems”. Steve Jones’ barre chords function more as melody than harmony and could freely progress anywhere. His guitar sounds like a chain saw with the implication of a slippery runaway train wreck. His guitar solos are an extension of the feeling of the song and not about virtuosity. After this, the bombastic solos of Jimmy Page, Alvin Lee, etc., were no longer the game, and from that position, the Sex Pistols were a profoundly political band. They are astonishing, and in their wake, unstoppable – shredding the lovely eco-system of England’s arty bands (Tangerine Dream, Pink Floyd, Genesis, etc.). In an instant, their music took us back to the garage. Its beauty was in the simplicity that any teenager could play their songs. The Sex Pistols were the train signal which changed the flow of traffic. Then the newer bands started to write shorter simpler to-the-point songs with political outrage and humor. With the idea that less is more, it would be against the Sex Pistols’ nature to keep pumping songs out. They had a clear, implacable, position with “Never mind the bollocks.” And with this collection of singles, they became emblematic of the new sound of Punk, yet they were not played on the radio. They are not played that much even today. They were too good to be an invented band; a disfunctional and fictional distroyer, that would end rock and roll. But when they called it quits, it opened the way for The Clash and company to take over the driver’s wheel, and the second-hand leather jacket of Punk from then on. While England raged, the newly signed bands from the CBGB club were spooned out leisurely on popular radio. We were waiting for Punk and got Blondie’s “Heart of Glass” and the hyper-surf tunes of the Ramones. I grew up in southern California, I was 19 years old in ’75, yet I felt isolated from it all. When will the new wave really hit? – it never was fully realized. It all passed by when their meddlesome and manipulative manager Malcolm McLaren sent the Sex Pistols on an idiotic and suicidal tour of the south. At that point, they had enough. Even though he viewed them as talentless and incompetent, McLaren never knew what he had on his hands. It was posterity that made the Sex Pistols what they are.
March 15, 2011
The Joy of Sex Pistols